Opinion: La Jolla High School needs to fix accessibility for disabled
Opinion / Guest Commentary:
By Lilly Grossman
La Jolla High School student
I am writing in response to two articles in the March 14 issue of the La Jolla Light. Thank you for the disaster preparedness apps story and for the information shared in the article “Community Center hosts disaster preparedness class,” by Ashley Mackin. I attend La Jolla High and was also interested to read about the changes principal Dana Shelbourne has made to upgrade the campus. I have a different viewpoint. Here is an article I wrote that was published in the school’s Hi-Tide newspaper on March 4, 2013:
Accessibility. In a non-disabled person’s mind, that word lacks meaning, but in a disabled person’s mind, the word “accessibility” is everything. Accessibility is how he or she is able to live his or her life as normally as possible.
Up until 2011, there was not a need for La Jolla High School to be accessible. Then a disabled student came to LJHS. The mother of the student gave the school a to-do list so it could get started on what needed to be fixed. One of the things on the list was to have both elevators working. Both of the elevators needed new software, so the school fixed them. But that was the easy fix.
Another thing on the to-do list was the bridge to the upper 500 building. The bridge was not safe for anyone, not only disabled students. In fact, when an architect came to evaluate it, he said the bridge would not be approved for an office building, let alone a school. That evaluation happened last spring.
The bridge had metal railings, but it was open at the bottom, so if one powerchair wheel went off the bridge, there would be nothing holding the 400-pound chair, except those flimsy metal railings.
The mom gave the school a deadline for fixing the bridge in 2010, when the student was in eighth grade. The bridge was not fixed until a week before the student started tenth grade. The school’s suggestion, so it would not have to fix the bridge, was for the student to take a different class! However, all the upper-class English classes are held in the upper 500 building, so even if the school did not fix the bridge, it would have to eventually.
Luckily, in the end, the bridge got fixed, but it should not have taken two years!
Another issue is the lack of accessibility to the football field. There are no wheelchair ramps to get down to the field. If a disabled person wanted to get onto the field itself, he/she would have to go all the way around the school, up past the pool, and around to the big gate on the north side of the field. In a natural disaster, all the students of LJHS are instructed to go onto the field. However, the students in wheelchairs must go all the way through the entire campus to where they are told to go.
A final fix for the school is automatic buttons for the doors on the library and main office. If there is a fire and someone in a wheelchair is in the library or office and no one is around to open the door for him or her, they are toast. Literally.
Getting automatic doors is a big safety deal for anyone in a wheelchair. But there is the cost, unfortunately, and unless someone generously donates the money to get them, there will be no automatic doors.
There are other students in wheelchairs coming to LJHS in the future. The school needs to get its act together and fix the things that need fixing before there is an incident caused by the school not being accessible.
I am using this issue to earn my Girl Scout Gold Award. My project has just been approved, so I am looking forward to putting it to use because I am the student in the wheelchair at La Jolla High.
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